Larry Hughes is worried about heating emergencies.
So worried, he wrote two reports for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and will present his findings tonight at Saint Mary’s University.
“As it stands now, the province is completely inadequate with the way it’s approaching heating emergencies at present,” he said in an interview yesterday.
When people can’t afford or access heat they turn on ovens, burn unsafe materials in the fireplace or crank up space heaters increasing the risk of fire. Plus there’s also a risk of frost-bite and hypothermia — especially in the young and old.
“Our biggest worry we should have in this province is that about 85 per cent of our energy is imported.”
The Dalhousie University professor explained supply, infrastructure and affordability are all crucial elements when it comes to keeping people warm. Heating oil is cheaper this year than last but it doesn’t mean it’s affordable for everybody, he said.
“We’re finding some (people) are paying well over 10 per cent of their income on meeting their heating requirements. This isn’t just home heating fuel, this is also electricity.”
As for infrastructure, snow and ice storms have left thousands of Nova Scotians in the dark this winter.
What needs to be done, Hughes said, is ensure all public buildings can access secure local sources of energy and not depend on energy imports. That way, many of these buildings could be used as shelters if the heat is knocked out.
“For example, just about every school in the province has a flat roof and those roofs should have solar panels on them to ensure the building can get at least a part of its hot water,” he said.